Saint Patrick's Cathedral is a
decorated Neo-Gothic-style Catholic cathedral church in the United States. It is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and a parish church, located on the east side of Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets in midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York. It faces Rockefeller Center.
Purchase of the property
The land on which the present cathedral sits was purchased for
$11,000 on March 6, 1810, as a site for a school for young Roman
Catholic men, the New York Literary Institution, to be conducted by
the Jesuits. The school closed and was sold to the diocese. In
1814, the diocese gave use of the property to Dom Augustin
LeStrange, abbot of a community of Trappists (from the original
monastery of La Trappe) who came to America fleeing persecution by
French authorities. In addition to a small monastic community, they
also looked after some thirty-three orphans. With the downfall of
Napoleon in that year, the Trappists returned to France, abandoning
the property. The property at this point was designated for a
future cemetery. The neighboring orphanage was maintained by the
diocese into the late 1800s. Some of the Trappists resettled to
Canada and eventually founded St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer,
Construction of the
The Diocese of New York, created in 1808, was made an
archdiocese by Pope Pius IX on July 19, 1850. In 1853, Archbishop
John Joseph Hughes announced his intention to erect a new cathedral
to replace the Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral in downtown
The new cathedral was designed by James Renwick, Jr. in the
Gothic Revival style. On August 15, 1858, the cornerstone was
laid, just south of the diocese's orphanage. At that time,
present-day midtown Manhattan was far north of the populous areas
of New York City.
Work was begun in 1858 but was halted during the Civil War and
resumed in 1865. The cathedral was completed in 1878 and dedicated
on May 25, 1879, its huge proportions dominating the midtown of
that time. The archbishop's house and rectory were
added from 1882 to 1884, and an adjacent school (no longer in
existence) opened in 1882. The towers on the west façade were added
in 1888, and an addition on the east, including a Lady chapel,
designed by Charles T. Mathews, was begun in 1901. The
stained-glass windows in the Lady Chapel were designed and made in
Campden, England by Paul
Vincent Woodroffe between 1912 and 1930. The cathedral was
renovated between 1927 and 1931 when the great organ was installed
and the sanctuary enlarged.
The cathedral and associated buildings were declared a National
Historic Landmark in 1976.
- The cathedral is built of brick, not marble because brick is
stronger. However, it was then covered with marble, quarried in New
York and Massachusetts.
- It can accommodate 2,200 people.
- The site of the church takes up a whole city block, bounded by
East 51st Street to the north, Madison Avenue to the east, East
50th Street to the south, and Fifth Avenue to the west.
- The spires rise 330 feet (100 m) from street level.
- The windows were made by artists in Chartres,
France, Birmingham, England
and Boston, Massachusetts. The great rose window is one of Charles
Connick's major works.
- The Saint Michael
and Saint Louis altar was designed by
Tiffany & Co. The Saint Elizabeth altar was designed by Paolo
Medici of Rome, Italy.
- The Saint John Baptist de la Salle altar remains one of the few
original side-chapel altars commemorating the patron saint of
catechists and teachers. The adjoining stained-glass window depicts
the Papal bull (a type of letters patent) of approbation granted by
the Vatican to the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian
Schools who, since 1848, have conducted numerous parish grade and
high schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York, as well as
Manhattan College, Riverdale (in The Bronx borough of New York
City) and Lincoln Hall.
- The cathedral's Stations of the Cross won a prize for artistry
at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago,
- The Pietà is three times larger than Michelangelo's
Pietà. It was sculpted by Araldo Perugi, who immigrated from
- A bust of Pope John Paul II is located in the rear of the
cathedral, commemorating his visit to the city in 1979.
- Then-Archbishop Francis Spellman, later cardinal, undertook a
major renovation of the cathedral's main altar area in the late
1930s and early 1940s. The bronze baldachin in the sanctuary is part of
this work, and the former high altar and reredos that stood there
were removed and replaced. The original high altar of Saint
Patrick's is now in the University Church of Fordham University in
The Bronx (Spellman's alma mater). Coincidentally, that
church, built in the 1830s, is also home to stained-glass windows
donated by French King Louis-Philippe I for Saint Patrick's Old
Cathedral downtown when it was originally being built. The windows
were installed in the University Church when it was discovered that
they did not fit in the Old Saint Patrick's. Clendenin J. Ryan
donated the rose window. He was the grandson of Thomas Fortune Ryan
and Ida Barry Ryan who built the St. Jean Baptiste church at East
78th Street and Park Avenue.
- In the 1980s, John Cardinal O'Connor undertook further
renovation work, most notably the construction of a new stone altar
in the middle of the sanctuary, closer and more visible to the
congregation. It was built from sections of one of the side altars
that were removed to reposition the baptismal font in the north
- The roof is made from slate from Monson,
of the cathedral (September 2006).]] The original pipe organs,
built by George Jardine & Son in the 19th century, have been
replaced. The chancel organ, in the
north ambulatory, was made by the St. Louis, Missouri, firm of
George Kilgen & Son, and installed in 1928; it has 3,920 pipes. The
grand gallery organ, by the same company, was installed in 1930,
and has 5,918 pipes.
The combined organs, totaling 177 stops and 9,838 pipes, can be
played from either of two five-manual consoles installed in the
early 1990s to replace the original Kilgen consoles.
Burials and funeral masses
of the cathedral decorated for Christmas Eve mass (December
1987).]] Located underneath the high altar is a crypt in which
notable Catholic figures that served the Archdiocese are entombed. They
Eight of the past eleven deceased Archbishops of New York:
- John Hughes (interred 1883)
- John Cardinal McCloskey (interred 1885)
- Michael Corrigan (interred 1902)
- John Cardinal Farley (interred 1918)
- Patrick Cardinal Hayes (interred 1938)
- Francis Cardinal Spellman (interred 1967)
- Terence Cardinal Cooke (interred 1983)
- John Cardinal O'Connor (interred 2000)
- Monsignor Michael J. Lavelle (Cathedral Rector and Vicar
General; interred 1939)
- Joseph F. Flannelly (Auxiliary Bishop, 1948-1969; interred
- Fulton J. Sheen (Auxiliary Bishop, 1951-1965; interred
- John J. Maguire (Coadjutor Archbishop, 1965-1980; interred
- Pierre Toussaint (interred 1990) In 1996 he was declared
venerable by Pope John Paul II, the second step toward
Four of the Cardinals' galeros (those of Cardinals
McCloskey, Farley, Hayes, and Spellman) are located high above the
crypt at the back of the sanctuary. Cardinal Spellman's galero was
also worn by Pope Pius XII (as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli) until the
latter's election to the papacy at the 1939 Papal conclave. In
1967, the ceremony of the consistory was revised by Pope Paul VI
and therefore no galero was presented to Cardinal Cooke or any of
Some notable people whose Requiem Masses were said at the
cathedral include New York Yankees greats Babe Ruth and Billy
Martin; legendary football coach (and Fordham University alumnus)
Vince Lombardi; singer Celia Cruz; former Attorney General and U.S.
Senator from New York Robert F. Kennedy; and New York Giants owner
(and Fordham University alumnus) Wellington Mara. Special memorial
Masses were held at Saint Patrick's following the deaths of Andy
Warhol, Joe DiMaggio, and author William F. Buckley, Jr.
In December 1989, approximately 5,000 ACT UP protestors arrived
at the cathedral and disrupted mass in a demonstration directed
toward the New York archdiocese's public stand against AIDS
education and condom distribution in
public high schools, as well as its opposition to abortion. A short
documentary film about the protest, Stop the Church, was
originally scheduled to be shown on the PBS television network. It
was eventually dropped from national broadcast by PBS, but still
aired on public-television stations in several major cities
including New York City, San Francisco,
Saint Patrick's in popular
(May 2006).]] , with Lee Lawrie's bronze statue of Atlas in the
right foreground (March 2005).]]
- The film Miracle in the Rain (1956) was filmed in the
- Nelson DeMille's novel, Cathedral,
(1981) concerns a fictional seizure and threatened destruction of
Saint Patrick's Cathedral by members of the Irish Republican Army.
Much of the novel is set in and around the cathedral and details of
the cathedral's structure contribute important elements to the
- Progressive-metal band Savatage's album ' (1991) features a
song called "St. Patrick's" during which the main character, DT
Jesus, speaks to God in the cathedral
demanding an explanation for his misfortunes.
- In August 2002, the talk-radio program The Opie and Anthony
Show broadcast a couple having sex in a vestibule in the
cathedral. The show's hosts were suspended from radio station
WNEW-FM one week later and their show was subsequently
- In the Giannina Braschi's novel, Empire of Dreams
(1994), the ringing of the church bells at the cathedral marks a
pastoral revolution in New York City.
- The cathedral appeared in the 2002 movie Spider-Man,
when Spider-Man saves Mary Jane Watson and leaves her on one of the
Center roof gardens across the street.
- The cathedral features prominently in James Patterson's novel,
Step on a Crack (2007).
- The underground ruins were the setting for the climax of
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) where Taylor destroyed
the earth with the Alpha-Omega bomb.
- In the ABC television series Ugly Betty, the cathedral
was used as the venue for the wedding of Wilhelmina Slater to
- The cathedral ranked eleventh out of 150 buildings in the
recent list, "America's Favorite Architecture", based on a
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York